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Few glitches at Elkhart vote centers [South Bend Tribune, Ind. :: ]
[May 07, 2014]

Few glitches at Elkhart vote centers [South Bend Tribune, Ind. :: ]

(South Bend Tribune (IN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 07--For many in St. Joseph County, eyes and ears were on Elkhart County during Tuesday's primary that for the first time used vote centers.

Elkhart County is the first nearby county to switch from precinct-style voting, in which voters have one location to vote, to vote centers, where residents can visit any location to cast their ballots.

Elkhart County Clerk Wendy Hudson said by phone Wednesday that the first vote center election was successful, with few hiccups and a lot of positive feedback.

"We went into Election Day not knowing how voters would respond to the touch screen voting machines, but lots of voters said they loved them," Hudson said.

However, the technology may have gotten the best of some of the poll workers, who may not be suited to working with the new electronic poll books, which are run through laptops with an Internet connection and update in real time across the county -- giving the clerk's office instant access to voter turnout and other demographic statistics.

It was through the real-time results that clerk's office staff realized that the North Side Gym vote center was inundated with voters, Hudson said. They were able to bring two extra machines to the site, helping alleviate some of the congestion.

That didn't stop crowds from being there until at least 7:30 p.m. to vote. St. Joseph County Election Board chairwoman Catherine Fanello said by email Wednesday that it's something to keep an eye on as St. Joseph County works to switch from 222 precincts to about 40 vote centers in 2015.

"It appears that, overall, the vote centers in Elkhart County did not experience any major hiccups," Fanello said. "However, the two hour wait does concern me and is an issue that we will need to be cognizant of as the vote center plan is developed for St. Joseph County." Because the votes were taken electronically, memory cards containing the ballots had to be collected from the machines. According to Hudson, one card was forgotten at the North Side Gym, delaying results while it was retrieved.

Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder said that, because of the long lines at North Side Gym, election organizers may look at rearranging or adding another voter center near that area to alleviate congestion.

"We weren't sure where the big traffic would be," Yoder said Wednesday. "In the fall, the traffic flow will probably change again." Elkhart County Democratic Party chairwoman Shari Mellin said she didn't hear from any poll workers the day after the election, which is unusual -- she normally hears from one or two about some problem encountered during the election.

"Overall, we're pretty happy," she said. "The turnout was high for a primary. There are always glitches, but all in all, it went pretty well." 574-235-6209 Twitter: @AmandaGraySBT ___ (c)2014 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.) Visit the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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